Social Housing Speed Read – “Make Things Right” Campaign and its effect on Social Housing
23rd October, 2023
The government have recently introduced a new campaign in order to encourage social housing tenants to report issues and make complaints in an attempt to improve social housing conditions.
The government have recently introduced a £2 million advertising campaign entitled ‘Make Things Right’. It will run from 9th October 2023 to the 1st March 2024 across numerous platforms, including radio, social media and internet advertisements. The campaign will be in English, but will also be translated into other languages including Arabic, Polish, Romanian, Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali.
The campaign is designed to make social tenants aware of their right to report issues and make complaints to the landlord, but also informs tenants of their rights to escalate their complaints to the Housing Ombudsman where complaints are not dealt with effectively by the landlord. This is likely to have been brought about to deal with the falling standards in social housing, as could be clearly seen in the tragic case of Aawab Ishak (read more here about Aawab’s law here ). An English Housing Survey showed that in the period 2020-21, 33 percent of social housing tenants considered making a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman but 27 percent of them did not do so as they did not feel anything would be done to change the situation. The government are hoping that the campaign will radically change such statistics.
The government have set out three key steps in their campaign; report, complain and escalate. Social housing tenants are entitled to report any issues to the landlord via a form (if available), by email or by phone. The government website states that social housing tenants are entitled to report numerous issues to the landlord, including mould and damp, poor insulation, broken doors, leaking pipes and anti-social behaviour to name a few.
If the tenant is unhappy with the service provided after they have reported an issue, they must be able to make a complaint to the landlord. Under the Complaint Handling Code, which came into effect on 1st April 2022, landlords must communicate with their residents about how they can make a complaint. There must only be two-stages to the complaints process. When the tenant first complains (stage 1), the landlord will have 10 working days to respond from the complaint being logged. If the complaint proceeds further (stage 2), then the landlord has a further 10 working days to respond to the complaint. Landlords do have the flexibility in deciding how to fairly and effectively respond to the complaint, and the Housing Ombudsman, Richard Blakeway, has stated this could be done via ‘repair, apology or offer of compensation’.
If the tenant is still unhappy with the outcome, they have a right to escalate their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman. This process was made easier by the removal of the requirement to first write to a MP or local councillor regarding the issue, and the requirement to wait 8 weeks after the landlord complaint process before being able to escalate to the Housing Ombudsman. According to the government website, last year the Housing Ombudsman ordered landlords to pay over £1 million in compensation to tenants.
The campaign will also fund training for Citizen’s advice in order for them to be able to provide more support and information to residents who require it. The pilot training will be set up in London and the North East.
Effect on Social Housing
By making social housing tenants more aware of their rights, it is important that landlords respond quickly and efficiently to tenant’s reports of disrepair in the home. Landlords should aim to deal with reports and complaints fairly and as soon as possible, not only to protect their properties from costly disrepair but also to ensure they are adhering to the new regulations in place. The further along the procedure a tenant gets with their complaint, the more likely it is to drive up costs. Further, the Housing Secretary has been publicly naming landlords who have not taken their responsibilities seriously, which can bring about bad press and publicity.
The government have advised social housing landlords to support the campaign by signposting their tenants to the campaign website, using the campaign material and sharing the information with their staff in order to be able to tackle any reports at the first available opportunity.
The Make Things Right campaign aims to provide information to tenants on how to report issues and make complaints, which the government hopes will improve the standard of living in social housing properties. Landlords are encouraged to comply with the campaign and attempt to deal with reports and complaints as soon as possible to avoid costly disrepair to their properties and/or any implications that could follow escalation of a tenant’s complaint to the Ombudsman.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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